Quiltfest 2013

Yesterday was Saturday!  That meant I got to spend the day at Handmade Adventures.  While there’s always a lot to do in the shop it doesn’t seem as much like work there as it does at home or other places.  Quiltfest was like that, too.  Taking five days of classes was really hard work but a pleasure all the way through.  I tend to theme things, so this year at A Mountain Quiltfest my theme was all about technique.  I decided to learn some new ones and refine some that I thought I knew.  I didn’t come out of any classes with a finished product but I did learn how to learn the technique.  That sentence seems a bit convoluted but these weren’t skills that could be perfected in a 6 hour class, they will all take practice and refinement over time.  What I gained from the classes was a step by step guide of what skills to work on and the confidence that, with practice, I can do it well.


My first class was invisible machine applique.  The concept is to do detailed applique work (such as Baltimore style applique, another intricate technique) on the machine that looks like it was done by hand.  Very fine nylon thread is used with a teeny tiny little blind hem stitch.  The sewing machine really has to be tweaked as far as tensions and stitch sizing to make this work but once you find the sweet spot it really is invisible!  

This was the class I was most nervous about because of my older machine. I have a 1974 Viking Husqvarna 6440.  It is strictly mechanical and I wasn’t sure it had all the stitch capabilities that I would need for five days with Harriet Hargrave.  I shouldn’t have worried.  Ms. Hargrave informed that she developed most of her methods on the exact same machine before she became a Bernina dealer.  I felt very validated in my choice to stick by my sturdy little sewing machine for all these years.

The next class was An Introduction to Quilters Academy.  Ms. Hargrave’s passion lies with machine quilting but over the years she’s realized that poor piecing contributes to poor quilting.  She and her daughter (who is just learning to quilt) are writing a book series called Quilters Academy.  It’s set up like a college course with Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years and now they are working on post graduate level books as well.  Our class got a review of the very basics of piecing the quilt.  The importance of grain line, how to properly press seams, how to get an even seam allowance, these were a few of the skills we relearned as we strived for precision and accuracy in our piecing.  This class was a real eye opener!


Satin Stitch and Buttonhole Applique was Thursday’s class.  I had tried satin stitch before and it was hideously ugly.  I learned that thread choice was key and that I hadn’t been making my stitch length small enough.  I also learned that if I set my machines stitch length to 0 it still moves forward!  I never would have thought to try that outside of Ms. Hargrave’s classroom.  Buttonhole stitch was a little more problematic as my machine doesn’t have a true blanket or buttonhole stitch but I went through the techniques with the most similar stitch I had available and I was pleased with the result.  I’m sure if I ever upgrade my machine I’ll like it even better.

The last class, Heirloom Machine Quilting, was a two day class. It was intense.  We learned about tools, techniques, practice skills, even meditating over the quilt.  At the end of the class Ms. Hargrave asked us to not start any new projects for 6 months.  She wants us to practice machine quilting and refine our skills so that our next new project we’ll feel comfortable quilting ourselves.  She wants us to be “quilters”  not just “toppers”.

Every day I came home from class physically drained from the fast pace.  We had so much to learn in so little time.  But I was exhilarated to have all this knowledge and have a plan for improving these skills with practice.  A tiny part of me is glad Quiltfest is over, I can’t keep up that kind of intensity for too long without crashing.  But most of me is looking forward to next year.  I wonder what A Mountain Quiltfest 2014’s theme will be? If you want to know more or have any questions, please send me a message :misty@handmadeadventures.net.

The Splashy Thing and Henrietta

Hello all!  I’m thinking that my first blog post ever should explain the slightly bizarre title.  I moved to Sevierville, TN ten months ago to assist my boyfriend, Bob Benson, in opening a handmade crafts store in Pigeon Forge.  One of the first things to repeatedly catch my eye in this tourist mecca is “the splashy thing” on the bow of the Titanic exhibit on the Parkway.  I would drive by in the middle of the day and the splashy thing would be off or after the last showing the splashy thing would be on.  I think I have a better idea of the schedule now but for the longest time I would text Bob, “The splashy thing is ON.” or off.  I’m still fascinated by the splashy thing even though I still haven’t visited the Titanic exhibit.

Our store is located in Old Forge Plaza which is behind the popular Old Mill Restaurant (which I also have not visited, go figure).  We  spend quite a bit of time there after hours which is how we discovered Henrietta.  Henrietta is what we call the heron that hangs out below the Old Mill after dark.  She (He? who knows) stares into the water coming across the weir.

There’s a big spotlight on the waterfall so I suspect she’s looking for fish in the water.  It always makes me happy to see her hanging out down there.  Since Bob and I started watching Henrietta we’ve seen her actually catch a fish and eat it and fly into a tree. I think herons look rather pterodactyl-ish in the air.

Craft as business is a new venture for me (and Bob, too).  I started crafting as a sewist (although that term didn’t exist then) when I was nine years old.  I dabbled with embroidery a bit but the sewing machine was my primary tool until I was in my 30’s.  I finally learned to knit and it seemed like a whole new world opened up.  Instead of cutting a piece of fabric down to size I was creating the fabric as I went.   In 2009 I finally took up quilting.  I suppose it was a bit of an obsession.  I felt like I had to make up for lost time.  My sewing past certainly made for an easy transition but there’s still so much to learn and I can’t wait to soak up all I can.

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work here at Handmade Adventures.  I get to see so many beautiful things and meet the artisans who make them.  I love being able to tell a story about each and every piece in the shop and give each customer a personal connection to that piece.  I guess you’d say I love being able to share the adventure!


It’s a sign!

I took the fact that we finally got our sign up as a sign that I should finally get our web presence going – at least a blog post. The sign I speak of is the sign for the side of our building – something I have been working on since we opened in May.

Yeah, I’m a little slow sometimes.

I suppose I should introduce myself. I’m Bob, the owner of the shop. I pick out the items you see in the store – with help from the lovely and talented Misty Edwards. We have around 25 artists in the store right now (more info on them and their work is forthcoming). Misty and I also do our own work – mine being a variety of things and Misty does sewing and quilting.

Perhaps you have figured out by now that we are named Handmade Adventures. Not coincidentally, we feature handmade items and we also emphasize local items. In fact, right now, 100% of what we sell is both handmade and local. We want to show everyone that drops by to see us what a wonderful variety of talented folks we have here in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. I’m deeply committed to having handmade items. I’m also deeply committed to not having cheap, imported items. There is PLENTY of that in Pigeon Forge already. I think it is pretty sad what most of this area has become and even though I can’t change it all, I can change my little corner and that is what I intend to do.

Our first day was May 17th and it’s been interesting so far. To be honest, most people don’t “get it”, but I really did not expect them to. It’s going to take a better effort on my part to inform them of what is going on inside these walls vs. everything else they are seeing. But, some people DO “get it”. That’s when eyes grow as big as saucers and we start hearing “oh my!” when they turn the corner and see more handmade goodness staring back at them. That’s also when the fun starts and we have made a new friend. People like Stace and Becky from Oregon or Mr. and Mrs. Julian Pruitt from South Carolina are the type of people that genuinely warm our hearts.

One of the most difficult things for me has been not being able to keep up. I can’t keep up with the items I make and that causes a whole cascading effect with everything else (it’s a long list so I won’t bore you). It’s fun and frustrating all at the same time. Fun because it’s great to have people like your work and frustrating because you feel like you need to be cloned a time or ten to keep all of the plates spinning. Bottom line: I need to improve and I hope the things I am learning along the way will help me do that.

Back to the sign: My friend Ray help me finish it. I did the copper heart and riveted it to the steel. I cut the shape of the hand out of plywood. My letters were too small, so Ray redid them and then found some elevator bolts to connect the steel and wood. Add a frame made of old barn wood and we finally have a sign. Whew!


Thank you for reading. More to come!